Which Desktop Computer Should I Buy
Finding the best desktop computer is no easy task, but there are some great options in 2023. Our top pick for the year is Dell's XPS Desktop 8950 with its powerful Intel and AMD CPU options, as well as discrete Nvidia GPUs. There are still great desktop PCs from HP, Apple, Lenovo, and less-known brands like Falcon Northwest too, though.
which desktop computer should i buy
We've extensively tested dozens of desktop computers to find the best PC for gaming, your home office, and everything in between. If you want to score a deal, make sure to keep our roundup of the best cheap desktop deals handy.
Regardless of what configuration you choose, you'll find something that matches your needs. That's because Dell builds them custom ordered, which is the best feature of the XPS 8950. The options are nearly endless, with prices ranging from $750 to over $3,000 depending on the parts you choose. Some of the desktops come without a discrete graphics card, meaning they're more suited for work than games. However, you can get one of the more expensive ones that include a discrete graphics card.
Dell is offering this new XPS desktop with Intel Alder Lake and DDR5 RAM for those who are in search of the best gaming PC. You can add up to an RTX 3090 graphics card as well, which is a serious amount of power considering the size of the machine. Powerful hardware means more heat, but the XPS 8950 gets rid of it well with optional liquid cooling and a case with plenty of room for airflow.
Outside of new components, this new version also supports DDR5 memory, which can make a big difference in gaming performance. If you want the best gaming desktop without the fuss, the HP Omen 45L can deliver.
The base M2 model is a big upgrade over 2020's Mac mini M1, but the updated desktop really shines with the M2 Pro chip. That takes the Mac mini from being a MacBook without a screen to a full-fledged creator machine capable of tackling the most demanding tasks you can throw at a computer today.
The best CPU will depend on how you're using your desktop. Gamers who want the utmost performance will want an overclockable Intel Core i9-11900K found on most high-end systems, while creatives looking at juggling large media files will want something with more cores. That means AMD, which offers 12- and 16-core chips in the form of the AMD Ryzen 5900X and 5950X.
The best time to buy a desktop is when your current computer isn't able to handle the applications you want to use. Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day usually bring the steepest discounts on desktop computers, but the reality is that you can score a deal on a PC almost any time during the year. Make sure to keep our roundup of the best desktop deals handy for when you want to upgrade.
While laptops are becoming more powerful, a desktop is still better suited for graphic-intensive applications such as computer gaming, video editing, or animation rendering. But if portability is a priority, then laptops are the only way to go.
Other things to keep in mind when deciding between a laptop and a desktop computer include upfront costs, noise and cooling, and peripherals. You should expect a laptop to cost a bit more than a desktop of similar specifications, as you're buying the display and input mechanisms at the same time, as well as paying for a battery -- though there are great budget laptops out there.
Laptops are also often very compact, which means they are more likely to be noisier when the fans ramp up to keep the computer cool. While desktops can also get noisy when under heavy loads like gaming or video editing, they tend to still be quieter than laptops under the same load due to the improved airflow in the case -- and you can always modify the cooling to improve it. That's not so easy with laptops.
As for peripherals, desktops tend to have more ports than laptops, meaning if you need to connect a bunch of peripherals (e.g. printers, external storage, speakers, microphone, etc.) then a desktop may be a better choice. The latest port standards include USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, which are excellent connections to look for.
Personal preference and experience dictate the operating system of choice more than anything, making it hard to recommend one over the other. The best way to tell which one is ideal for you is to try both out to see which one feels more intuitive for you to work on, and which one will work with your favorite programs. Mac computers are generally more expensive than Windows-based PCs, though they tend to be a little more secure. With fewer macOS PCs out there, hackers are less interested in making viruses for them. The closed-ecosystem approach Apple employs for its products also makes it harder to distribute malware -- though not impossible.
Today, most computers have at least one SSD, or solid-state drive, for storage. SSDs are much faster than older HDDs (hard disk drives with moving, magnetic parts), which means you can open and find files faster. SSDs are your best bet for a boot drive, with traditional hard drives best suited as additional storage space and secondary drives.
If you're concerned about running out of space on your drive, don't be. There are so many options to expand your storage for either a laptop or desktop with an inexpensive external hard drive or even cloud storage. External drives (you can find both external hard drives and external SSDs) are great, and these days, depending on which one you buy, can be just as fast as your internal drive thanks to new technologies such as Thunderbolt 4.
Bluetooth is another common wireless feature that most laptops (and some desktops) have, which can make phone syncing easier (read: cable-free) and even add support for headsets and headphones, allowing you to roam freely while on a voice call or listening to music. Any desktop you choose should also offer Wi-Fi 5 or 6 wireless networking capability (offered via a built-in or optional attachment), or come with an integrated Ethernet port, which enables connection to the internet via an Ethernet cable.
Snazzy, innovative laptop designs are constantly evolving. Smartphones are ubiquitous and astonishingly capable. So where does that leave that '80s relic, the desktop PC? There are still plenty for sale, and innovation never stops in the desktop market, especially among small-form-factor and all-in-one models. But many shoppers seem to consider desktops an anachronism, heading straight to the laptop aisle for their next computer purchase.
That's not always the right move. Desktops aren't facing extinction, and they're doing anything but standing still. For consumers and businesses alike, these are the most cost-effective and customizable desktop computers for 2023, as shown by our favorite examples from recent reviews. Check them out, then read on to learn everything you need to know about finding the best desktop for you.
With the OptiPlex 5090, Dell crafted an affordable office (or remote working) desktop with a professional-grade Intel Core i5 processor including vPro security technology built in as well as plenty of room for future component upgrades or replacements. While the base configuration is a little bare, higher loadouts are where it's at, which make better use of the multiple USB and DisplayPort connections.
A desktop CPU gives you more power for complex content-creation work, PC gaming, or math and scientific projects. Faster processors with four, six, eight, or even as many as 18 cores will benefit software written to take advantage of the extra cores. The desktop version of a given CPU will consume more power and generate more heat than versions designed for laptops, which must be incorporated into environments that have less thermal and power-delivery leeway. A desktop CPU also has greater wiggle room to incorporate a key feature, multithreading, that allows each of the CPU's cores to address two processing threads at a time instead of just one. Multithreading (which Intel calls "Hyper-Threading") can deliver a major performance boost when engaged with suitably equipped software.
All computers have a CPU, but most laptops and many cheaper desktops don't have a dedicated graphics processor, or GPU. Instead, their display output comes from a portion of the CPU, a slice of silicon known as an integrated graphics processor (IGP). An IGP is fine for basic tasks, such as checking your email, browsing the web, or even streaming videos. Doing productivity work on an IGP is completely within bounds. Indeed, most business desktops rely on IGPs.
Choosing a graphics card is a complex affair. Gamers should consider the capabilities of their monitor first. A 4K monitor or one with a high refresh rate (144Hz or greater) will require a very powerful GPU (or occasionally even two GPUs) to display games at the monitor's maximum potential. If you're just looking to do some middle-of-the-road gaming on a 1080p monitor (and not looking to win any professional esports crowns), a mainstream card like those in Nvidia's GeForce GTX series will do just fine. At the high end, current GPU choices for gaming desktops comprise Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3000 and growing 4000 series, and AMD's Radeon RX 6000 and burgeoning 7000 series. The RTX 2000 series and RX 5000 series respectively indicate previous-generation cards.
If you think you'll add storage later, consider how many expansion bays your desktop has. A combination of two or more 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch bays should be enough, as these can accommodate any type of traditional SSD or hard drive. You'll also want to ensure your desktop has at least one M.2 slot to accept a PCI Express SSD as the main boot drive, since that will offer the fastest throughput speeds. In most new systems, the boot drive will come as an M.2 drive. These drives are very small, the size and thickness of a stick of gum.
On all but the very tiniest of mini PCs, you should look for at least three USB 3.0 (or higher) ports, at least one of which should be the newer, oval-shaped Type-C variety if you have any compatible peripherals that plug directly into that kind of port. Future-proofers will want to seek out USB4 or Thunderbolt 4 options, which both use the Type-C standard with increased speeds and bandwidth. 041b061a72